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Here’s How to Take Flight in Flying Pigeon Pose

Leah Sugerman
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Flying Pigeon Pose or Eka Pada Galavasana is a challenging arm balance, deep hip opener, and serious core strengthener.
 
With so many different and demanding elements, this pose is no easy feat. But how do you even approach these benefits with a pose that seems so hard?
 
When you first see this asana, it appears almost impossible. However, if you break it down to the small, minute details, the pose becomes much more manageable (and definitely attainable).
 

Follow these 5 steps to take flight in Flying Pigeon Pose:

 

1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

As the basis of all yoga postures, Mountain Pose will teach you about muscle engagement and contraction while simply standing on two feet.
 
Mountain-Pose
 

Let’s Try It:

  • Start standing with your feet parallel and approximately hip-width distance apart
  • Lift your toes and spread them wide and evenly apart. Slowly lower one toe down at a time maintaining the distance between them
  • Evenly distribute your weight between all four corners of your feet
  • Lift your kneecaps to activate your quadriceps
  • Allow your tailbone to become heavy, lengthening toward the floor
  • Lift your pelvic floor
  • Draw your bellybutton toward your spine and up toward your rib cage
  • Lengthen the crown of your head toward the sky

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Stack your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips
  • Stack your hips over your knees and your knees over your ankles
  • Create space between each bone of your back body to grow taller in your own body

 
 

2. Figure-Four Chair Pose

Creating an opening in the hips and stabilizing your balance, this posture sets the foundation for your arm balance.
 
Figure-Four-Chair-Pose
 

Let’s Try It:

  • From Mountain Pose, shift your weight over into your left leg and rise to the ball of your right foot
  • When you’re steady, inhale to lift that foot up off the floor and flex into your ankle
  • Externally rotate your hip (turning your toes toward the right) and bend deeply into your right knee
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee to create the shape of a figure-4
  • Bend deeply into your left knee, sinking your hips low toward the floor

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Focus your eyes on one steady, still point in front of you (finding your drishti) – this will help with balance
  • Keep your right ankle flexed to protect your knee joint
  • Constantly maintain your left knee aligned over your ankle (even when you bend the knee) – make sure that you can see all your toes past your knee joint when you look down

 
 

3. Squatting Figure-Four

Preparing to take flight, this step will help you to build a solid foundation in your hands and your hooked leg to keep everything stable and in place when you lift off in Flying Pigeon Pose.
 
Squatting-Figure-Four
 

Let’s Try It:

  • From your Figure-Four Chair Pose, draw your hands to meet at your heart in a prayer position
  • Begin to lean the weight of your torso forward as you bend deeper into your left leg
  • Fold your torso over your right shin and release your hands to the floor, shoulder-width apart
  • Rise to the ball of your left foot
  • Spread your fingers wide and evenly on the ground and press down firmly into all four corners of your palms, gripping at the mat with your fingertips
  • Hook your flexed right ankle around your upper left arm

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Pay special attention to press the mound at the base of your index finger down into the floor
  • Try to reach your right foot as high up on your left arm as possible (ideally trying to wrap or hook your foot around your bicep)
  • Keep your ankle flexed firmly and wrap your toes around your upper left arm to “lock” your foot in place

 
 

4. Initial Lift

As you start to lean your weight forward and activate your core, your center of gravity will change, allowing for a counterbalance of weight that literally lifts your leg off the floor. Building strength as well as flexibility, this is a beautiful place to work – for as long as you need – toward realizing the full posture.
 
Initial-Lift
 

Let’s Try It:

  • From your Squatting Figure-Four, look forward
  • Activate deeply into your core, lifting the pelvic floor and drawing your belly in and up
  • Bend your elbows to create an almost-perfect 90 degree angle within your arms (creating a Chaturanga-shape) and rest your right shin across this “shelf” that you’ve created
  • Begin to lean your weight forward in space, moving more weight into your hands
  • Keep shifting your weight forward until your find that magical point of counterbalance (when your legs become light and easily lift from the floor)

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Lean further forward than you think you should
  • Always look where you want to go – if you’re looking down, you’re going down, so look forward
  • The moment your leg lifts, draw your heel in tightly toward your seat

 
 

5. Full Flying Pigeon Pose

Once you’ve mastered the initial lift, the full pose is just the icing on the cake. Although it requires serious concentration, strength, and flexibility, this pose is actually more about a counterbalance of weight than pure, brute strength. And it requires a good amount of humor and lightheartedness to be able to work the trial and error (a.k.a. falls!) necessary to find your balance.
 
Full-Flying-Pigeon-Pose
 

Let’s Try It:

  • From your Initial Lift, again find a counterbalance of weight by leaning your torso further forward in space
  • Simultaneously, begin to extend your left leg straight toward the back of your mat (and even up toward the sky if you want an extra challenge)

 

Alignment Tips:

  • Do not allow one shoulder to dip lower than the other – keep them level and even
  • Do not allow your shoulders to dip lower than your elbows – maintain your Chaturanga shape in the arms
  • Hug your elbows into the midline of your body
  • Maintain broadness within your chest – imagine that your collarbones are smiling
  • Press your right leg firmly down into your arms but draw your core in and up to lift your torso away from the floor
  • Try to resist the force of gravity – think about lifting up rather than allowing gravity to push you down
  • Send energy extending up and out of your back leg

 
Now, repeat steps 1-5 in preparation for your second side in Flying Pigeon Pose.
 
 
Arm balances are always a fun way to kick your practice up a notch, challenging you to find strength and focus. Flying Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana) is a wonderful arm balance because it simultaneously builds strength while also increasing flexibility.
 
As with all yoga poses, take your time to get there and focus on perfecting your form rather than reaching the final realization of the posture. After all, the practice is not about the destination, but all about the journey – both internal and external.
 

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Leah Sugerman

Leah is a yoga teacher, writer and passionate world traveler. She fell in love with the pure dichotomy of the yoga practice: the stark contrast between the strength and power compared to the grace and surrender. When not teaching, Leah can be found practicing handstands in the sand, finding magic and eloquence playing with words or traveling to far ends of the globe with her mat in hand.

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